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January 17, 2017
U.S. Army via AP, File

On Tuesday, President Obama commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning, the former army intelligence analyst convicted of leaking classified military documents and diplomatic cables to WikiLeaks. After nearly seven years in jail, Manning will be released in May 2017, long before her initial release date of May 2045; she was originally sentenced to 35 years, which The New York Times reported marked "the longest punishment ever imposed in the United States for a leak conviction."

Many, including NSA leaker Edward Snowden, have urged Obama to commute Manning, who has twice tried to commit suicide and gone on a hunger strike to fight for gender reassignment surgery. At a press conference Friday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that while Manning's leaks were "damaging to national security," they were not as "serious" and "dangerous" as those by Snowden, who has also applied for clemency. "Chelsea Manning is somebody who went through the military criminal justice process, was exposed to due process, was found guilty, was sentenced for her crimes, and she acknowledged wrongdoing," Earnest said. "Mr. Snowden fled into the arms of an adversary, and has sought refuge in a country that most recently made a concerted effort to undermine confidence in our democracy."

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange indicated last week that he would agree to be extradited to the U.S. if Obama granted Manning clemency. Assange, who has been hiding out in London at the Ecuadorian embassy, could face the death penalty in the U.S. because of WikiLeaks' role in releasing numerous classified documents. Becca Stanek

January 17, 2017
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Nearly three years after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the underwater search for the missing plane has been suspended.

The plane vanished over the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014, with 239 people on board. "Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft," Chinese, Australian, and Malaysian officials said in a statement. "The decision to suspend the underwater search has not been taken lightly nor without sadness." Last July, it was decided by Australia, China, and Malaysia that if the aircraft was not found by the time 46,000 square miles had been covered, the search would be suspended. Some wreckage has been found, including three pieces off the coast of Africa.

In a statement, Voice370, a support group for relatives of those aboard the flight, said commercial airplanes "cannot just be allowed to disappear without a trace. Stopping at this stage is nothing short of irresponsible, and betrays a shocking lack of faith in the data, tools, and recommendations of an array of official experts assembled by the authorities themselves." Catherine Garcia

January 16, 2017
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On Monday, FBI agents arrested the wife of Omar Mateen, the gunman who last June killed 49 people in a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida. CBS News reports Noor Salman is facing charges of obstruction of justice, and aiding and abetting. During interviews following the shooting, investigators began to question how much Salman knew about Mateen's plans, The New York Times reports. She is expected to appear in federal court in San Francisco on Tuesday. Mateen, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, was killed during a police shootout at the scene of the rampage. Jessica Hullinger

January 13, 2017

Actor and comedian Steve Harvey announced Friday he will be teaming with retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson to work on an inner city initiative under President-elect Donald Trump, Reuters reports. Carson is Trump's nominee to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development, a contentious choice due to his lack of relevant experience. Harvey hosts Family Feud and The Steve Harvey Morning Show, and hosted the 2015 Miss Universe pageant, in which he famously announced the wrong winner.

"It's not my jump into politics, I ain't going to pass a background check," Harvey told the press after meeting with Trump in Manhattan on Friday. "It's just me following orders from my friend, President Obama, who said, 'Steve,' as he told everyone, 'get out from behind your computers, stop tweeting and texting. Get out there and sit down and talk.' I stepped from behind my microphone and I came and talked to the guy who is going to be the 45th president." Jeva Lange

January 13, 2017
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The Chicago Police Department has habitually used excessive force that violates the Constitution, Attorney General Loretta Lynch announced Friday. The findings followed what Lynch described as an "exhaustive" 13-month Department of Justice investigation that was launched amid uproar over the fatal shooting of a black teenager, Laquan McDonald, by a white police officer.

The resulting 161-page report attributed the "unreasonable" use of sometimes "deadly force" to "systemic deficiencies" within the city and police department. "Our review of CPD's deadly force practices identified several trends in CPD's deadly force incidents, including that CPD engages in dangerous and unnecessary foot pursuits and other unsound tactics that result in CPD shooting people, including those who are unarmed," investigators wrote in the report. The investigation also revealed that blacks and Latinos are "hardest hit by the pattern of unlawful force."

Lynch said there is "considerable work to be done," and Chicago authorities have signed an agreement pledging their commitment to reforms. "It's in our interest," Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said of the upcoming changes. "There is no going back to a day when we're not going to do that. The view, though, is it's not to be done to the police. The police officers are part of the solution to solving and achieving public safety." Becca Stanek

January 12, 2017
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On Thursday, Vice President Joe Biden's office confirmed that Biden and President Obama were briefed by intelligence officials last week about unverified claims that Russia may have compromising information on Donald Trump.

This is the first time a top government official has confirmed that Biden and Obama were told about the claims as part of their briefing on Russian interference in last year's presidential election, CNN reports. The network reported earlier this week that Obama and Trump were both given a two-page summary of the allegations, culled from a 35-page report put together by a former British intelligence agent.

Biden's office also said after their briefing, the president and vice president did not ask for any additional information, and Obama asked, "What does this have to do with anything?" Catherine Garcia

January 12, 2017
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President Obama is scrapping the "wet foot, dry foot" policy for Cuban immigrants, a senior administration official revealed Thursday. The policy, which was introduced in 1995, granted permanent residency to Cubans who arrived in the U.S. without visas. The repeal will take effect immediately.

The policy was originally enacted because the U.S. was hesitant to send Cubans back to a country run by Fidel Castro, The Associated Press reported. It was extended only to Cuban immigrants, and the Cuban government has long argued the policy encouraged its citizens to leave for the U.S.

The changes, which follow several months of negotiation between the U.S. and Cuba, "would be the last step by Obama to normalize relations with Cuba," AP said. Obama's efforts have led to the reestablishment of full diplomatic ties between the countries.

The U.S. and Cuba are expected to issue a joint statement on the agreement late Thursday. Becca Stanek

January 12, 2017

The inspector general of the Department of Justice announced Thursday that the department will review certain actions taken by the DOJ as well as the FBI before last year's presidential election. In a statement, the department said it would investigate, among other things, FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate last July and his letters to Congress on Oct. 28, 2016, and Nov. 6, 2016, regarding the investigation of Hillary Clinton's private email server.

Also up for review are whether FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe "should have been recused from participating in certain investigative matters," whether Assistant Attorney General for Legislative Affairs Peter Kadzik "improperly disclosed non-public information to the Clinton campaign," whether the FBI's Twitter account was "influenced by improper considerations," and whether employees of the DOJ and FBI "improperly disclosed non-public information." You can read the Department of Justice's full statement announcing the review below. Kimberly Alters

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